I drove an hour south from Haverstraw, NY, jumped on the Garden State Parkway and headed to North Arlington, NJ. I was on my way to visit the grave of my maternal 2x great grandparents, William P. and Mary Cottrell Donnelly.
One of the things you learn quite quickly in genealogy -- which wasn't self evident when I began my family research -- for each generation you go back in your family tree -- the grandparents you have double. By way of example -- we each have four grandparents. Those four grandparents each had two parents -- so our our great grandparents total 8. Our 2x great grandparents total 16 -- our 3x great grandparents total 32... I'm not a math major like my twin brother Bill, but even I can understand the math. When I go back to my 4x great grandparents -- my ancestor's tree looks just like an NCAA basketball tournament bracket. Wow.
Now that I understand the math -- researching and knowing my 2x and 3x great grandparents seems to provide enough curiosity and intrigue to keep me occupied for awhile. But it is quite remarkable that Aunt Clair has documented 8 generations of maternal ancestors in the Remmele tree. It's daunting to think about going back that far -- but in reality that's only back to the 17th Century. Remember what I said about genealogy never providing an definite 'X' to mark the spot on a treasure map? I suppose we all get back to Adam and Eve at some point -- but I'd be happy to get back 2-3 generations.
I'm most curious about the ancestors who made the decision to leave everything they knew in Ireland or Continental Europe and start a new life in America. What would compel someone to do this? Were things so bad at home that they had no choice? Were they living in poverty or famine, fighting wars or a vassal in some feudal system? I want to find that decision point where flight won out over fight or opportunity of the new world won out over sticking with what you know. What did they know about America? Where did they find the courage to strike out on a new path? I want to know what inspired them to act courageously and chance everything.
After stopping at a bakery in nearby Kearny (there are no bakeries like this in Georgia!), I headed over to Holy Cross Cemetery, a cemetery established in 1915. The Holy Cross is a universal symbol of Christianity -- a sign of Redemption, not of suffering and death. "The Holy Cross assures us that death has been replaced with life, eternal life. The Cross also bears witness to love, and through the Cross we understand that love is not easy, it has both joy and sorrow."
Not to be outdone by the famous folks buried in the cemeteries of the Milani's, Alois Faller and John J. Halloran, there are 15 famous graves in Holy Cross, including a Medal of Honor winner, two mobsters (it is NJ after all), three notable singers -- 2 opera and 1 rocker, 4 major league baseball players, a silent film actor, a senator, a congressman and a mayor, and an American folk hero.
William P and Mary Cottrell Donnelly were not the first of their Irish family to come to America -- both of their parents were the first. William P's father was Patrick Donnelly, my 3x great grandfather. He was born in Ireland in 1826 and died in Elizabeth, NJ on 30 Sep 1873. By trade he was a horseman - a groom. It is unknown why or when he came to America. Curiously, he would have been 35 at the start of Civil War and Ancestry.com reports 3 Patrick Donnelly soldiers from New Jersey. More research ....
Mary Cottrell's father was John J. Cottrell. He was born in Ireland and was one of the Irish famine passengers arriving in the US in 1850. This is a EUREKA moment for me -- as I now understand one of my 32 -- 3x great grandparents' motivations for coming to the US!
William P was born in 1850 in Elizabeth, NJ. In a 1979 interview with Uncle Bill, Aunt Catherine Bolen recalled that William P was a cabinet maker by trade and had once built a hook and ladder fire engine that was on display at Newark Museum. He was small in stature and quiet.
Mary Cottrell was born in 1853 in New York. She married William P. about 1876. William P and Mary had five children and sadly, one of the five, Julie, had burned to death as a result of jumping over a fire. Aunt Catherine described Mary as kindly, even tempered, and had a ready smile or chuckle. She was good cook and enjoyed fun and company.
William P and Mary had Sunday dinners at their house frequently. William P died at the age of 73 and Mary would die 10 years to the exact date of her husband's death. His funeral was held in his residence at 306 South Clinton St., East Orange pictured here as it looks today:
May they rest in peace.
On to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.